A district court is not required to resolve any facts in a review of an administrative proceeding. Certainly, there may be issues of fact before the administrative agency. However, the function of the district court is to determine whether or not as a matter of law the evidence in the administrative record permitted the agency to make the decision it did. De novo fact finding by the district court is allowed only in limited circumstances. With regard to (a) the use of summary judgment in an original district court proceeding and (b) the use of summary judgment where the district court is reviewing a decision of an administrative agency which is itself the finder of fact: in the former case, summary judgment is appropriate only when the court finds there are no factual issues requiring resolution by trial. In the latter case, summary judgment is an appropriate mechanism for deciding the legal question of whether the agency could reasonably have found the facts as it did.
Plaintiff, a cellular telephone company, filed a motion for summary judgment on its claims under § 704 (47 U.S.C.S. § 332(c)(7)(B)) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, challenging the denial by defendant, the County of Madera, California, of its application for a conditional use permit for a wireless facility in a subdivision. The County's Board of Supervisors were also defendants. The company asserted three claims under 47 U.S.C.S. § 332: (1) that the County failed to issue a written decision as required by the statute, (2) that the County lacked substantial evidence to deny the use permit in the circumstances, and (3) that the County's action amounted to a prohibition of wireless service in violation of § 332. The County disputed claims two and three.
Was there substantial evidence in the record to support Counties denial of a telecommunications permit?
Among its findings, the court concluded that substantial evidence did not support the conclusion that the project was inconsistent with the general plan. The company's motion for summary adjudication was granted as to its claim that defendants failed to render their decision denying its application for the conditional use permit in writing and its claim that there was a lack of substantial evidence to support the denial of the conditional use permit. Additionally, the denial based on aesthetic considerations, lower property values, or a nuisance because of noise was not supported by substantial evidence.